Category Archives: Race Reports

Away from my internets

I guess I needed a break for a few days? I haven’t touched my computer since last week. It’s been wonderful, actually.

But I’m back. So here’s what you’ve missed.

I bombed a 10-mile race.

BOMBED IT. It’s been a while since I had a total race meltdown. Saturday was the day. It sucked.

I decided to jump in to the American Tobacco Trail Ten Miler rather spontaneously, handing in my registration at packet pick-up on Friday afternoon. Several friends and teammates were racing and it sounded like a fun, flat, fast race.

It was fast…for about a mile. Too fast. Way too fast.

The plan was to go out at half-marathon pace (somewhere in the 7:20-7:30 range) and then work it down a little in the last couple of miles.

But fueled by delusions of grandeur and the excitement of being a part of the lead pack of runners (it was a staggered start, with the women starting first), I ticked off that first mile in seven flat. Shit.

I managed to keep it in the 7:10-7:20 range until the turnaround, roughly the halfway point. Through the 10K, I was still doing relatively okay, although things were starting to feel rather robotic and flat.  My 10K split was somewhere around 45-46 minutes, which about what I ran when I raced a 10K a few months ago. But unfortunately, I still had almost four miles to go.

My pace proceeded to grind to a halt and I shuffled miserably toward the finish line, cursing under my breath as each person passed me (most of whom, in fairness, were men catching up from their handicapped start). 8-minute pace. 9-minute pace. Whatever. My legs were totally shot.

I started the race in fourth place. I ended in twenty-second. Finish time: 1:17:50. A 7:47 average pace. Exactly twenty seconds per mile slower than half marathon pace. Ouch.

Lesson: Do not. Go. Out. Too. Fast.

I’m not sure if I’ll ever learn this lesson.

On the bright side, I can only think of one other time I’ve ever raced a ten miler, and that one I finished in 1:22, so I guess it’s a PR.  Cue ambivalent cheer.

…but I had a pretty great track workout.

Unfortunately, they don’t give medals for workouts. Or cash prizes. Bummer.

I totally nailed 8 X 400 at mile pace (90 seconds recovery). Take that, shitty ten-miler.

Sigh. No glory.

I ate things on crackers.

My husband was traveling all last week. I ate many meals that looked like this:

I also ate many salads and killed most of that bag of baby bell peppers. Perhaps that balances out the tub of pimento cheese.

I drank sunset beers.

It was a gorgeous weekend here. And do you know what I did with my free time instead of cuddling with my laptop, as usual? I sat outside on my little balcony, read books, and consumed beer.

This Rare Vos from Ommegang, a Belgian-style Pale Ale, was outstanding. Smooth, a little creamy, and just barely sweet with heavy carbonation but none of the pucker factor or perfume one often finds with American-style Pales. Just…very very pleasant to drink. 6.5% ABV.

Bottom line: Highly recommended! (Purchased at Total Wine, $2.25/12oz)

I also picked up a four-pack of that Dogfish Head Punkin Ale that everyone has been going OMG INSANE about for the last few weeks.

I respect what they were trying to do here, bringing the pumpkin in to a nutty Brown Ale. In theory it’s a good match, but I really did not care for this beer. Some of that is probably personal bias, as I’m not wild about Brown Ales generally: with their lower carbonation, they always seem a little watery and thin to me. And I’m not gaga for pumpkin flavor either. But I wanted to give this one a shot because it seemed to be so universally liked – and also, I’d never disliked anything from Dogfish. So I guess this is a first. I gave the remainder of the pack to my co-workers. 7% ABV.

Bottom line: Not my kinda beer. My opinion seems to be in the minority, though. (Purchased at Total Wine, $8.50/4)

I watched Center Stage.

I think I still have a VHS tape of this movie floating around somewhere. Alas, I have no VCR. So when I see it on TV…

(Image source: IMDB)

Having the remote control all to myself last week was bliss.

How was your weekend?

Race Report: Triangle Run for Autism 5K

Or: my fastest 5K of the year.

[Insert yaysies here]

The weather: perfect, at 50 degrees and sunny. The course: hilly, as always…but not as punishing as it could have been, I suppose.

Coming off of the start line, we climbed a two-block incline and then began a gradual descent into one of the pretty historic neighborhoods north of downtown. I’d positioned myself three people deep at the start and had a lot of company during that first quarter mile. Even though I’d taken a good three-mile warm-up, I felt like I was running in slow motion among the throngs of sprinting kiddos. Finally the crowd thinned out and I took in the scene.

I knew I wasn’t going to be a contender for an overall place at this race, but it was still nice to see that there only appeared to be a half-dozen women ahead of me.

Downhill all the way to the first mile marker: 6:28.

Another little two-block incline. I was finally starting to feel like my legs were warmed up.  I passed one of the girls in front of me as we crested the little hill and began a long, steep descent that would drop us down and around the far curve of the U-shaped course.

At the bottom of that hill was a “YOU’RE HALFWAY THERE!” sign. My watch read 9:58. Sub-20 pace! Um…if the rest of the course were downhill.

Unfortunately, we had to climb back up the other side of the hellish thing that we just descended. I tried to focus on passing people instead of fretting about how much ground I was losing on that 20-minute mark. I passed a couple of guys as we continued to wind our way up out of the neighborhood.

Second mile marker: 13:22. (6:54 split…not as bad as it sounds, considering the terrain.)

I knew the big hills were out of the way, and the last mile, while net uphill, would be gentler rollercoasters. I tried to pick up my pace. I knew breaking 20 was unrealistic, but I sure as hell could get under 21.

A chick in a pink matchy-matchy running skirt outfit passed me. Humiliating. I tried to hang with her, but damn, she was moving. Seething about this must have distracted me for most of the last mile because before I knew it, I was coming up on another helpful sign: “1/4 MILE TO GO!”

My watch read 19:30.

Translation: You have ninety effing seconds to get your ass across that finish line.

Thankfully, it only took me eighty-two.

Finish time: 20:52 (7:30 for the last 1.1, 6:45 pace)

Good enough for seventh woman overall and, as it turns out, an age group win.

I feel pretty positive about this. Last spring, I ran 21:04 on a very similar course. It’s only 12 seconds, but improvement is improvement, right?

After the race, I literally kept on running, settling for an inadequate half-mile cool down, as that was the distance back to my apartment. I kicked off my flats and ran straight in to the shower as I had about six minutes to get ready for work.

Scurrying around all afternoon must have been a fair replacement for a proper warm down, though, because my legs actually feel pretty good today.

That, or the enormous plate of pulled pork nachos I ate for dinner last night was more than adequate recovery fuel. (Carbs + protein!)

I guess we’ll see when I attempt my long(ish) run later this afternoon….

Three seconds

I generally have limited tolerance for people whining about the accuracy of their race times.  And not just because of the whole Garmin/tangent problem.  But because, I think, weekend-warrior racing has become such technical endeavor. Did your chip hit all six timing mats?  Was your official time within milliseconds of what the gadget on your wrist said?  Quick, load up your phone’s web browser and check with Lord McMillan to see if you ran what you were supposed to run!  

Sometimes I miss those old-fashioned cross-country races where someone handed you a popsicle stick with a number on it as you crossed the finish line, and that was the end of it.

So, um…the fact that today’s race bugs me a little?  Bugs me a little.

During the usual pre-race teammate chatter, I’d stated that I’d be content with my time if I could just slip under six.  I ran 6:02 on the track a couple of months ago.  Although I hadn’t done much in the way of quality running since then, I’d logged decent maintenance mileage.  Totally reasonable.

The course for this afternoon’s Magnificent Mile was nice: a lollipop, with the loop portion circling the state capitol.  Relatively flat, with a couple of gentle grades during the second and third quarters of the race and a slightly downhill finish.

I lined up behind a throng of middle-school-looking kids in matching cotton t-shirts who were hogging the start line and prepared to throw elbows. Ugh.  Sorry, kiddos.  We’ve only got a few minutes to do this thing, and I’m not going to let you get in my way!

My confidence grew as I heard the splits called at each quarter: 84. 2:58. 4:30. I was running a fairly even race and picking people off left and right.  I hauled it down the home stretch, thinking there was no way I couldn’t grab a few extra seconds on the kick and come in under 6:00.

I saw a row of three fives on the clock as I headed into the chute and cranked out those last couple of strides to the timing mat.  5:55?  Worst case, 5:57 or something.  Sweet.

“Hey, you got it!  I saw you go across at 5:58!” A teammate slapped my sweaty shoulder as I chugged a cup of Gatorade.

“Nice work!  5:58!” shouted a coach from the other side of the finish area.

Satisfied with my sub-six performance, I headed out on a long cool down.  I thought to myself: you know what?  That was good.  Not my best race ever and certainly not a PR, but hey: I did what I set out to do.  I ran a consistent race and I passed a lot of people.  It was fun.

So why did my official time have to be 6:01?

Oh-ONE.  OH-ONE.  Seriously?  WTF?

Aaaand here we go.  This is exactly the sort of thing that I roll my eyes at when people start talking about what their finish time WAS versus SHOULD HAVE BEEN.  Because it does not matter.  There isn’t prize money or even a PR at stake here.  It’s just a three second discrepancy. That happens to span the barrier between a finish time that starts with a five and one that starts with a six.

But still.  WTF?  I guess everyone (including multiple people, spectating the race separately) had rose-colored glasses when they watched me cross.  And I still don’t understand how it could have taken me six seconds to travel approximately six feet, from when I last saw the clock to the timing mat.

You all should go ahead and tell me to take my own advice right now.

And to just be happy.  To be happy that I ran a good smart race.  To be happy that I can still run a six-minute mile (or thereabouts) with no formal training. To be happy that I earned a popsicle stick with THIRD PLACE written on it – in my age group, that is.

Oh well.

Prosecco makes me happy:

No need for an “occasion.”  Other than: I had dinner at this cute wine bar last night and was craving sparkling wine but didn’t like any of their by-the-glass offerings.  So I picked up a bottle at the grocery store after the race.

This Ecco Domani Prosecco is a little blah, but it does the job. There’s a little grapefruit, a touch of honey, and very perky carbonation that almost assaults the roof of your mouth.  And there’s something acidic that I can’t quite place.  I don’t know that I’d seek it out again, but this time around, it had two things going for it: one, it was pre-chilled (CANNOT WAIT FOR BOOZE TO COOL) and two, it was on sale for $8.  And for $8, it’s better than Cook’s or whatever.

Bottom line: Skip it…unless it’s on clearance. (Purchased at Harris Teeter, $8, regular price $12)

We had charcuterie for dinner tonight…

Which is a fancy way of saying we had cheese and crackers for dinner. Goat brie, grapes, spicy soppressata, sharp cheddar, and slices of toasted baguette brushed with olive oil and sea salt.  I also had a salad and some strawberries.

Off to relax with a book before bedtime…hope you had a great weekend!

Putting the ODD in Vodka

“Hey, can I ask what you guys are doing?”

It’s a question I heard more than once on Saturday.

Trying to explain relay races to non-runners always leaves me feeling like an idiot.  Because when I say things like:

We’re running across the state of New Jersey!  There are seven of us and we’re taking turns running and we started early this morning.  We’re subsisting on crackers and peanut butter and my car currently smells like a boiled sock.  We’ll finish by dusk.  Probably.

I realize how absurd the whole concept really is.

And then the next question is always: “Why?  Are you doing this for charity?”

Nope.  Just for fun.

And really, although perhaps illogical, it’s true: relays are FUN.

Fun and popular.  A decade ago, no one had ever heard of that Hood to Coast thang in Oregon, and now it’s a sellout event with 1,000 teams and a highly competitive entry process.  And doesn’t it seem like there are more Ragnars than you can shake a stick at?

But until last weekend’s River 2 Sea Relay – which started in Milford, NJ and ran 90 miles across the state to Manasquan, on the shore – I hadn’t done a relay in years.  I think I’m gonna need a little more relay in my life from now on.  Because last weekend rocked.

(Photo credit to AR.  Probably not the first crotch shot she’s taken in her life…?)

It also practically killed me dead.  Because while we were at R2C to have a good time, some of you might know some of my teammates, and you know that they’re a speedy bunch.  Team Vodka Heist was going to put up a strong showing, even if we didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of “winning,” due to the specious seeding process, which involved everyone submitting their recent 5K times and starting earlier or later accordingly.  The first team to cross the line wins.

(We were honest, and seeded in a relatively late starting time.  The team that “won” in the Open Female division was a group of college cross-country runners that must have sandbagged themselves and gotten an early seed, because they were nowhere near us at the start or on the first couple of legs.)

Anyway.  I ran my little butt off in an attempt to not embarrass myself and my fellow Heisters.  But it was damn hot out, and as it turns out, running on the treadmill and doing cross-training classes – no matter how intense might be  – is not good training for running hard on an unshaded course in the middle of the afternoon in late July.

My first leg was just shy of 4 miles.  I ran it around 1 PM and managed to pull off 7:35 pace.  The whole time, I was thinking about the 6.5-miler I would have to run a couple of hours later and how much that was going to effing suck.

Second leg: 4 PM, 6.55 miles at 8:25 pace.  Zero shade.  Zero.  With the temperature solidly in the 90s and a lovely road-shoulder incline that made my calves scream with every step.  I was quite crabby on this leg and felt horrible about the scowls and grunts I was giving my amazing teammates as they stopped the support vehicle every mile to hand me water and Gatorade.  I’d intended to try to keep by pace under 8:00 for that leg, but after a couple of miles I gave that up and just focused on not stopping to walk.  (Which I did, a couple of times.  Ugh.)

In spite of my lackluster performance, Vodka Heist finished pretty damn well, with a net time of 10 hours and 37 minutes for 90 miles.  That’s a low-7 average.  Speedy!

The post party involved pajamas, compression socks, and lots of booze.  Some vodka was, in fact, heisted.

(Photo credit to Megan for this gem.  Taken at god-knows-what-time of night.  She has lots more Team Vodka Heist photos over her blog, too!  I was too busy driving to take many pictures of the actual event.  And the pictures I have of the after-party…well, I don’t want to incriminate anyone!)

Anyway.  It was so awesome to see my friends and worth every minute of the 10+ hour drive, each way, from NC to NJ.

Totally necessary.  I try not to take this stuff very often, but I do think it actually works!  I was wide awake and singing along to Garth Brooks within ten minutes of drinking this magic bottle.

Next year, Heisters?  I promise to actually train so I’m not such a slowpoke!

And if anyone wants to do another relay in the interim…count me in!  Because I’m pretty sure the ass-sweat smell isn’t gonna come out of my car anyway.  Might as well get some use out of it!

Right pace, wrong race

The good news: I totally nailed my 5K pace tonight!

The bad news: I was racing a 3K.  Oops.

I’ll try not to.  I promise.  Because why would I expect to run a stellar 3K right now?  I haven’t been doing workouts.  In fact, this race was the workout.

The UNC track sat under a menacing gray sky tonight.  The bleachers trembled with the occasional rumble of thunder.  In the distance, thin branches of lightning sprinted across the dark clouds.  Perhaps it was an omen.

The 3,000-meter race was my game tonight.  The last race of the evening.  And the first time I’d raced a 3K since college.

I warmed up for a mile and then took relaxed jaunt around the track with some teammates in the slow heat of the 1500M.  Ah, all-comers meets.  Our 7:17 finish was middle of the pack for the heat and left my legs feeling surprisingly nice and loose.

Successfully avoided: the landmines of the 100M and 400M dashes. Tempting…but sure to kill my legs dead.  Instead, I happily circled the track with my camera, logging another mile of warm up while snapping pics of my friends as they tried their distance-runner legs at the shorter stuff.

As the starter called first call for the 3K, the sky turned a frightening shade of dark orange.  The thunder rumbles became audible claps.  Lightning bolts licked the roof of the fieldhouse.

And maybe it was the weather or maybe it was my nerves, but all of a sudden I started to sweat.  Profusely.

We lined up.  As usual, an eclectic group: adolescents in high-tops, shirtless old men, a chick in a sports bra and bun-huggers, the requisite clump of off-season cross-country dudes…

Bang! Here we go.

I knew I wanted to start this race off relaxed.  Or, in other words: I didn’t want to go out with an 80-second first lap and then spend the next six-and-a-half miserable.  Something in the 90-95 second range seemed like a reasonable goal for each quarter, and would land me a sub-12:00 finish if executed correctly.

Lap 1: 1:39 / Lap 2: 1:38 / 800M @ 3:17

Well, that’s relaxed all right.  A little too relaxed.  Hmm.

I knew the first lap would be on the slow side; I got boxed in at the start.  But I really thought I’d picked it up on the second quarter.  Apparently not.  I focused on keeping my feet light and quickening my stride, which is why I was disheartened to hear…

Lap 3: 1:43 / Lap 4: 1:44 / Mile @ 6:44.

Seriously?  Um…seriously? I thought for sure I was going faster.  Dammit.

The field was pretty spread out at this point and I was kind of all alone, but I decided to change tactics and focus on reeling in the nearest competitor, a guy in the pumpkin-colored shorts who was about 30-40 meters ahead of me.

Lap 5: 1:37 / Lap 6: 1:39 / 2400M @ 10:00

Reeling in Pumpkin Butt wasn’t going so well.  I had improved my pace a little but apparently he did too.  In spite of my efforts, the gap stayed even. Curses. The light show in the stormy sky provided a bit of distraction, though.

Lap 7: 1:39 / last 200M: 0:49 / 3000M @ 12:28

These splits don’t really make sense to me.  I know I kicked.  I know I did.  How is it possible that I was running the same stupid pace I was before?  Ugh.

[I will not complain about being out of shape I will not complain about being out of shape I will not….]

Anyway.  I covered just under two miles at an average pace of 6:41 per mile.  5K pace.  Meh.

I don’t know if I really gave this race my all.  I didn’t really feel spent at the end…I just couldn’t seem to make my legs pick the pace up.  Maybe it was the weather.  (I mean, duh: it’s a track meet in July in North Carolina.  Of course it’s effing hot.)  Maybe it was the lack of speedwork this spring/summer.  Maybe it was the ice cream bar I ate on my way out the door.  Maybe it was the fact that I knotted my laces twice instead of three times, and forgot to wear my lucky underwear.

Or maybe I’m just out of shape.

I’m not whining; I’m simply stating a fact.  And having lived in the south for almost a full year (!), I think I’m finally appreciating the fact that the summer really is the off season down here.  Training volume is relatively low. Intensity is down.  Is running a 3K at 5K pace really such a bad thing?  Maybe not.

I swapped my spikes for trainers and set out on a two-lap cool-down.  As I circled the first curve, fat raindrops began to fall, and the temperature seemed to suddenly drop twenty degrees.  I watched the track surface darken from its light Carolina Blue to a murky gray as the sky opened up and treated the stadium to a wonderfully cool shower.

Perhaps it was an omen, indeed.  A message from the skies that when it comes down to it, at least I’m out there, having fun and making friends and running as fast as I can on that particular day.  Sealed with a promise that there will be a refreshing shower waiting afterward.

Really…the only thing missing was a beer.

Anatomy of a track mile

“It’s all about that third lap,” I said sagely.  I was standing on the shoulder of the UNC track, wobbling on one leg with the other in a quad stretch, dispensing unsolicited advice to a teammate who was running her first track race.

The mile.

And then it occurred to me that I should probably shut my trap because, well…when exactly was the last time I raced a track mile?

It had been a while.

Return of the pink zebra spikes!

Last summer in NYC, I track-raced twice: one 1500 and one 800. Although I wasn’t training specifically for middle-distance stuff, I had been doing speedwork every week, and as it turned out those were two of my best races of the year (according to the AG% tables).

And they were also my funnest (it’s a word now, right?) races of the year.  I love track meets!

So it was with a mix of excitement (love da track!) and nervous anticipation (but I haven’t done any speedwork since February!  whoops!) that I approached yesterday’s weekly Godiva Summer Series meet.  I’d signed on for the mile and the 800.

On the drive out to Chapel Hill, the chatter in the car centered around the usual question: “So, what do you think you can do today?” Of course, I’d thought about this.  And I’d picked nice round targets: 6:00 in the mile and 2:50  in the 800.

Godiva meets are pretty low-key.  They generally break the distance events into three heats and runners self-seed themselves based on their expected finish time.  Men and women and kids, all together.  For the mile, heat one was 7:30-plus, heat two was 5:30-7:30 and heat three was under 5:30.

Heat two, I will own you.  I tried to talk myself up as I jostled for a place along the waterfall start, bumping elbows with the throng of high school kids and grizzly old men.  I can still run a six-minute mile.  It doesn’t matter that I haven’t been doing any speedwork and have been slogging along at nine-minute pace for the last two months.  I can do this.

With a quick Runners-Set?-Bang! we were off.

It may have been a while since I’d raced a track mile, but I remembered how this game was played.  Lap one: feels easy, probably too fast.  Lap two: start to feel the burn.  Lap three: pure agony.  Lap four: kick it in.

With a bit of jockeying, I found myself in fifth or sixth place by the time we hit the backstretch.  First female.  Cruising around the turn, it felt downright easy.  Split 1: 1:24. 5:36 pace.  Yep…I remember how to play this game.

Through the 600M mark, I held on to my position.  But I could hear a couple of people right on my shoulder.  I fought them off through the turn, but coming back around the front straightaway, my ass got passed.  First a guy, and then a girl.  Damn it.  Split 2: 2:52. 5:44 pace, 1:28 for the lap.

Oh, the dreaded third 400.  Here’s where the fun happens.  It’s only 400, I told myself.  Just run a 90-second quarter here.  Hot on the first chick’s heels, another tiny girl cruised by me.  Eff her, I thought bitterly.  Eff me and my 30-year-old hips. Stay with me, twee girl.  Why are my lungs burning?

And then, somehow, the evil third quarter was over.  Split 3: 4:30.  6:00 pace, 1:38 for the lap.  Gaaaaaaah.

Time to kick it!  Twee girl and her pack had opened up a ten-foot gap on me. I tried to close it, but she was picking it up too.  Shit.  She was holding strong, but a couple of the other guys in the pack were dropping off.  I picked off one on the backstretch and another one in the final 50M, where I did my best impression of a sprinter.  Finish time: 6:02.  1:32 for the lap.

Sofa king close.

I went out too fast.

Or did I?

I think you have to go out hard when you’re racing a short race, like a mile.  Maybe I could’ve held back to the tune of a second or two, but I don’t actually think I raced this poorly.  Rather, I think I’m out of (track) shape, and I just don’t have that additional gear – the one that would have allowed me to shift down and hold on to my pace, rather than losing ground – in that third lap.

While I’m bummed that I missed my goal by a couple of seconds, compared to last year’s effort, I feel okay about it.  Last summer’s 1500 time of 5:30 is a 5:52 mile, so I’ve lost 10 seconds.  That seems like a reasonable penalty for being a lazy-ass this spring.

And what of the 800, you ask?  Nailed it.  2:50 on the nose.  (Last summer I ran 2:44.)

The 800 is a painful race.  It’s a damn sprint.  And I kind of love it, even though it makes my entire body feel like it’s made of lead.  And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

So, a successful night at the track. Although I certainly didn’t set any PRs, I’m reasonably satisfied with where I am, fitness-wise.  Which is to say: I’m right where I expected to be.

And no matter how old I get or how much my ass expands, it’s good to know that some things never change.  That third lap is always a bitch.

On to the next one, eh?


Race Report: Brooklyn Half Marathon

Alternate title: Speed work makes you faster. But only if you actually do it.

Alternate-alternate-title: There’s a first time for everything.

Alternate-alternate-alternate title: If that tree grows in Brooklyn, it will be because I fertilized it.

So I knew I wasn’t in the best of shape going into this race.  I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I’d run a solid half-marathon at a sub-7:30 pace a couple of months ago, but since then, I’d pretty much been cruising.  No speed work.  Decent mileage, but a total lack of quality work.

But nonetheless, as I hopped nervously in the start corral, I thought to myself: well, maybe I haven’t lost any fitness.

And I still believed that for the first few miles:

Mile 1: 7:17
Mile 2: 7:34
Mile 3: 7:24
Mile 4: 7:17

Circling Prospect Park, I thought about how I felt during the first four miles of Shamrock.  In that race, it felt like I was running easy.  This…didn’t exactly feel like that.

But as I would discover, that was the least of my problems.

Mile 5: 7:49
Mile 6: 8:12
Mile 7: 7:37
Mile 8: 8:11

As I headed in to mile five, two things happened:

One, my pace slowed as I headed up the dreaded Prospect Park Hill for the second time.  Fine.  But, more concerning…

Two, my tummy started to gurgle ominously.

Let me say that I’m generally not one to have running-related digestive issues.  Sure, I can obliterate a port-o-potty with the best of ’em on race morning, but I’ve never had to stop during a race to use the bathroom.

Until Saturday.

There’s a first time for everything.

Somewhere around mile 6, I decided to make a pit stop.  It made me cringe, the thought of pulling off the course, waiting for the plastic bathroom’s occupant to vacate, and passing precious seconds doing my thing.

But you know what really killed me?  Getting in to that plastic bathroom and not being able to do my thing.

Gah.  Frustrated and still full of shit, I headed back on to the course.  I hauled ass, trying to make up for lost time.  But my mile split was on the slow side of 8-minutes.

And with that, I headed out of shady Prospect Park and on to the long haul down to Coney Island.

It was the beginning of the end.

Mile 9: 8:17
Mile 10: 8:24
Mile 11: 8:12 
Mile 12: 8:19

I had a hard time getting my pace back after that pit stop.  I was mad that I’d stopped during a race – something I’d never done before! – and still hadn’t managed to relieve the rumbling roil of discomfort that was brewing in my bowels.  At some point I accepted that I wasn’t going to be able to hit my goal 7:30 pace, and I plodded along Ocean Avenue, seething.

For a couple of miles, it seemed that my tummy-ache had subsided, too.

Until somewhere around mile 10, when it returned with a vengeance.

Gurgling recommenced.  And then the internal spasms.  And then…well, I needed to stop and take care of business.  Like, now.

The only problem was that the next mile marker – and hence, the next possible location of a port-o-potty, was at least five minutes away.  As I saw it, I had three options:

  1. Attempt to hobble at a near-walk while clenching things together until I found the next available toilet-like apparatus.   Could be half a mile, could be longer.
  2. Pull off the course and find a place to let it go.
  3. Shit myself.
A grim situation, no doubt.  But I knew what I had to do.  So, on a wide boulevard lined with handsome brick brownstones, I ducked behind the widest tree truck I spotted and…well, you know.

There’s a first time for everything.  And hopefully a last time.

Mile 13: 8:19
Mile 0.1 + tangent trash: 0.29 in 2:12 = 7:42 pace
Finish time: 1:45:22

Once I’d accepted the indignity of what I’d done, I found myself facing the last mile of the race!  Well, I guess that’s the silver lining to having major digestive issues and stopping to crap on a tree in the middle of a major metropolis.  It’ll really distract you from the fact that you’re running a long race!

I thought about trying to make myself hammer that last mile, but honestly I just didn’t see the point.  I’d lost a ton of time to dealing with stupid shit (literally) and what did it matter if I ran 1:44 or 1:45?  In either case it was several minutes slower than it should have been.

So as I turned off of Ocean and on to the Coney Island Boardwalk, I just tried to enjoy the rest of the run.

Oh well, you can’t win ’em all.

I would say there was a lesson to be learned here, but I’m really not sure what I did to piss my intestines off so royally before this race.   Late-ish pizza dinner the night before, perhaps?  Dish soap in the coffee pot at the bodega where I stopped for a cup on the way to the race?  Just bad luck and karma finally catching up to me?  Who knows.

(I must say that I have a newfound appreciation for those who battle tummy issues on the regular while running and/or racing.  Because damn, that is not a fun feeling.)

I’d hoped my spring half-marathon “season” would go out with a bang and a sub-1:38 performance.  I have to admit that it’s a little funny that I crapped out – both literally and figuratively!

But honestly, even without the stomach issues, I’m not sure if I could have come in under 1:40.  This race demonstrated that if I want to be a faster runner, I need to do speed work regularly – like I did before Shamrock.  I can’t just coast along on base miles and expect improvement.  In order to run faster, you have to practice running faster.  Speed work works – but only if you actually do it.

For now, though, I’m happy to take my requisite recovery week, then shift to focusing on shorter races for the summer!

Because there are always bathrooms at the track.  And I’m probably never going to have to worry about possibly crapping on myself during a 1500.

Race Report: Capital City Classic 10K

So it could have been better, but it could have been a whole lot worse.

Until Saturday, my post-college 10K resume consisted of a few half-assed efforts and a couple of full-blown meltdowns.  In fact, the two 10Ks I ran last year fell squarely in the latter category.  (See race reports for the 2010 NYRR Scotland Run 10K and the 2010 NYRR Mini 10K if you feel like a big glass of whine.)

In fact, oddly, my best 10K in recent years was this random Turkey Trot I did on the heels of the NYC Marathon a couple of years ago,  after three weeks of no training and after staying up drinking until 3 AM the night before.  At 47:55, it was an easy target to smash.

So on one hand, I went in to Saturday’s Capital City Classic with a pretty low bar: all I have to do it not f*ck up, and it’s an improvement.

But on the other hand, I kind of wanted to run what I think I realistically should be able to run for 10K.   Which would be somewhere around 42-43 minutes.

Thus, the range of reasonable and acceptable outcomes for this race was 42:01 to 47:54.  Quite a spread.

I decided to make it simple and just pick a nice, round number to focus on for my pace.  Seven minutes.  That would result in a finish between 43 and 44.

Seven minutes, I told myself as I gathered my unruly hair into a ponytail.

Seven minutes, I told myself as I attempted to make coffee, pouring water into the coffee maker and pressing start.  (And then realizing, staring stupidly as steaming water dripped into the carafe, that I’d forgotten the grounds.  Apparently I need a cup of coffee to be awake enough to operate the coffee maker.  If this isn’t the ultimate chicken-and-egg problem, I don’t know what is!)

Seven minutes, I chanted silently as I walked from my apartment to the start area.  Seven minutes, as I jogged my warm-up in the cool morning fog.   Seven minutes, as I laced up my flats.  Seven minutes, as I bounced nervously in the start corral, trying not to count the number of faster-than-me faces in the crowd.

I knew that seven minutes would be a two-part challenge.  In the first couple of miles, it would be an admonishment to slow down.  But at the end – and particularly during “all climb, all the time!” mile five, it would be a speed-up mantra.

Off we went.  As expected, a blazing-fast lead pack immediately broke off.  (This race serves as the USATF State 10K Championship, so it attracts a faster field than your average local race.)  I tried to relax and let them go and waited until I thought we’d been going at least 4-5 minutes before glancing down at my Garmin.  0.6 miles at 6:35 pace.  Oops.  Seven minutes, seven minutes.  I forced myself to slow down even though that meant being passed by a couple of more people, and letting the pack that was pulling me along slip away for good.  Mile 1: 6:58.  

Shortly after that first mile marker, the course did a lollipop and doubled back on itself for a few blocks before peeling off, which was a nice little distraction.  I got to watch the leaders come back the other way and, after completing the small loop, got to see the rest of the field heading in to it.  That second mile flew by.  I don’t think I even glanced at my Garmin until I saw the second mile marker coming up – and realized I’d having a little too much fun spectating.  Mile 2: 7:12.

Having fallen off my pace a little, I subconsciously picked it up and was soon running in the 6:30s again.  Seven minutes, I told myself.  Seven minutes.  I relaxed a bit, and after a few more minutes of gently rolling but mostly downhill terrain, I hit the next mile marker.  Mile 3: 7:04.

Then things started to get a little bit more difficult.  Up to this point, the course had meandered around the Captial and through lovely shaded residential streets. Now we were heading out on to an exposed highway for about 1200 meters.  The weather wasn’t particularly warm, but compared to the oak canopy I’d come out of, it was Hades out there on that highway.  I gritted my teeth and tried not to think of what was coming next – because right at the fourth mile marker, I knew we would turn off the highway and head up a very long hill.  The good part: somehow, I was still holding close to my goal pace.   The bad part: I was now running all by myself.  The guy who’d been in front of me had pulled away and shrunk to ant status, and I could tell by the nature of the volunteers’ cheers that there wasn’t anyone on my tail, either.  Mile 4: 7:06.

Around a corner and time to climb.  Ugh.  I felt my stride flatten, and before long my seven minute mantra had nearly become an eight minute mantra.  I was holding steady at 7:45 but couldn’t seem to go any faster.

And then, all of a sudden, the wheels started coming off.  Literally.  I heard a weird clicking on the ground and realized that it was coming from my right foot. The ends of my laces were dancing on the concrete.  One of my brand-spankin’-new, first-time-outta-the-box racing flats had come untied. Shit.

I tried to think: had I ever had a shoe come untied during a race before?  I wasn’t sure.  Should I stop and tie it, or keep going?  I had about a mile and a half left at this point.  The shoe didn’t seem to be in danger of coming off, but my heel was definitely slipping a bit and the flying laces were making me nervous.  I was starting to have visions of grinning wildly as I crossed the finish line, adoring fans gasping in astonishment as I broke the tape, sporting a bloody maw and missing front teeth because I had tripped and smashed my face on the concrete.

Ok, yeah, probably not.  But I made a brief stop, just in case.  As brief as I could make it.  I yanked the laces hard and hastily jammed them in to the sides of the shoe.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work.  Within a couple of blocks, the laces had wormed their way back out and were once again dancing madly with each footfall.

Argh.  Eff it.

At least the shoelace drama made me forget that I was running up a hill the whole time.  Before I knew it, the next mile marker was in sight.  And I was way off pace, but oh well.  At least my shoe was still on.  Mile 5: 7:55.

The final mile of the course, I knew, was a third downhill, a third uphill, and a third downhill (with the remainder of the distance to the finish downhill as well).  So, I only had one more hill to get through.  And it was the worst kind of hill: the kind where you come around a corner and see a wall of road and a string of traffic lights ahead of you, each smaller and higher than the last.  Oy.

Four more blocks.  Seven minutes.  Three more.  Two more.  Seven minutes.  One more.  Seven minutes.  I stuck with my mantra, even though I was struggling to keep it under 7:20.  Cresting the that final uphill block, I knew I had less than a half-mile to go and tried to get a quicker turnover going, even though my flat was practically falling off of my foot at this point.  Mile 6: 7:18.

Just effing finish.  Even if you end up half barefoot.  I flew down the Fayetteville Street Mall, and even though there was no one anywhere near me, I gave it a solid kick.  Mile 0.2 + tangent trash, 0.12 = 0.32 in 2:01 for a finish time of 45:34.

Well, at least I didn’t lose a shoe.

And my finish time was within the range of acceptable outcomes.

And actually?  Except for that one crappy uphill mile where my shoe came untied, I thought I ran the thing pretty darn well.  For me, anyway.  I realize I have a long way to go in terms of learning how to pace myself at this distance, but with the exception of the shoe drama mile, my splits were all within 20 seconds of one another.  Not perfect, but a whole lot better than going out at 6-minute pace, then wanting to die, then finishing at a 9-minute jog, per the usual.

I didn’t exactly blow my goal out of the water, but I didn’t blow up either.  And hey – I set a post-college PR!  With a wonky shoe.  So there’s that.

But the best part?  I don’t think I’m afraid of 10Ks any more.

It may not ever be my favorite distance, but now that I know I can race one and not totally implode, I might just look forward to doing another one this fall.

However.  For now?  Seven minutes.  That happens to also be my pace for consuming two post-race mimosas.

Even though I didn’t break the tape or even meet my A-goal, I didn’t f*ck up.  And that, my friends, it always worth celebrating.

I died and went to heaven

…and it looked exactly like Charlottesville’s Beer Run.

I was rather thirsty yesterday afternoon.  And evening.

Cracking a Starr Hill Jomo Lager at 11:30 AM.  The beginning of the end.

This made for a lovely drive back to Raleigh this morning and a long day of work today.  I.  Am.  Exhausted.

However, it was completely worth it.  The Charlottesville Half was a success!  Official finish time: 2:14:45.  Walking: zero.  I am so very proud of the hubzzz.

How in hell’s blazes do people take pictures of themselves while racing?  I wasn’t even running hard and this was the best I could do.

Anyway.  The hubs says thank you to all of you who wished him well.  I don’t know if he would go so far as to say he had fun, but I think it wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.  And the course was beautiful and we had excellent company.  (Our friends Matt and Gesina ran as well – it was Matt’s first half marathon too!)

Well, before I go pass out, let’s see whose derriere is gonna be nice and slippery:

I do believe that means the winner of the 2TOMS Butt Shield Giveaway is Heidi!  Congrats!  Email me (eatdrinkrun at gmail dot com) so I can get your info.

Alright, I’m going to go eat some pizza and then face-plant in to my bed.  Hope you all had a great weekends too!

Race Report: Shamrock Half Marathon

Thanks for all of the advance congrats, blogpeople!  I am pretty happy with how I ran this race.  It wasn’t a PR.  Nothing ever is.  But I haven’t cracked 1:40 since…um, high school?  So there’s that.  Huzzah!

Here’s how it went down:

After exactly seven pee stops (that’s one every thirty minutes!), I rolled in to Virginia Beach on Saturday afternoon and made a quick stop at the expo to grab my schtuff.  I promptly got the hell out of there because I had to pee (again!) and the bathroom lines were outta control.

Headed out to my friend Jenni’s house (thanks for letting me camp in your guest room, Jenni!), a few miles away.  We gabbed and I drank more water.  We went out for pizza and I ate more than her and her son combined.  We were both yawning by 10 PM.  I peed one more time and then fell in to bed like a pizza-stuffed sack of…well, pizza, I guess.

Up and at ’em at 5:00 AM on race day.  Ugh, that is the worst part about races. I drove down to the beachfront, parked in an already-packed garage near the finish area, and started the 15-block trek north toward the start.  I quickly realized that it was windy and miserable, and that everyone was wearing sweats and hats and gloves, whereas I was a shivering mess in shorts and a long sleeved throwaway tee.

Ugh.  Why am I doing this again?

Although it was a mild 45*, the wind felt like ice.  Ice that blows sand in your eyes.  I ducked in to a 7-11 and purchased a cup of the worst coffee I’ve ever consumed, sipping it while considering my options.  I could:

(A) Go back to the car and get more clothes; or

(B) Suck it up and start moving to warm up a little.

Of course I opted for B.   I continued north at a slow jog and started to feel slightly less miserable.

As it turns out, that was a good decision because as it was, I barely had enough time to drop off my bag, defile a port-o-potty, and hop in to my corral.  Right on time at 7 AM, we were off.

Mile 1 – 7:38
Mile 2 – 7:37
Mile 3 – 7:31

Thankfully, we immediately headed  a couple of blocks inland.  The wind backed off considerably.  I focused on just getting in to a nice easy groove.  I still had my throwaway shirt on and didn’t even look at my Garmin until I saw the first mile marker.

I had gone in to this thing with a couple of goals:

  • Break 1:40.
  • Run a nice, even, smart race.
  • Don’t f*ck up.

I was rather pleasantly surprised when I saw my first mile split.  I had assumed, with how mellow the pace felt, that I was closer to 8:00.  Still, I held back.  Smart race.  Smart race.  Smart race.

After a couple of miles, we turned off of the residential road and headed thorough a park-like area and a pretty grove of windswept trees.  Easy peasy. Hey.  This is actually kind of pleasant.

Mile 4 – 7:26
Mile 5 – 7:21
Mile 6 – 7:29

I spent most of miles 4 and 5 attempting to lose this chick who was, like, sucking gas.  Loudly.  “Damn,” I thought to myself.  “If that’s how you feel at mile four, it’s going to be a long morning for you, sweetie.”  And then I remembered that I’ve gone out WAY too hard in my fair share of races and have probably totally been that girl before.  Huh.

Regardless, I finally shook her loose and fell into step with a friendly older guy from Ohio.  We chatted our way through mile marker six.  And then just like that, we were halfway there.

Mile 7 – 7:24
Mile 8 – 7:31
Mile 9 – 7:20

We were now running through some sort of military site thingy and making a slight turn back toward the water – right in to the wind.  Awesome.  I could see this lighthouse in the distance.  I figured it must be the lighthouse I had heard people talking excitedly about.  As in: “Yeah, as soon as we hit the lighthouse it’s a straight shot down Atlantic Ave!”

But I knew it was way too soon to be thinking I was on the homestretch.  I glanced periodically down at my wrist and saw that I was hanging on to my goal pace just fine.  Just hang out there, I told myself.

Somewhere around mile 8, we made the final turn around the bluff and hit a nasty patch of headwind, along with the only hill of the course.  It was a wee little thing, but suddenly it felt like I was running up Mt. Suck.*  I could feel my gait start to flatten – oh, hey, there’s the feeling I’ve been dreading for the last hour.

Mile 10 – 7:18
Mile 11 – 7:29
Mile 12 – 7:30

Well, at least we’re past that damn lighthouse.

Running was starting to feel a little bit…well, hard.  And as much as that sucked, physically, I was actually a little relieved because it hadn’t really felt like I’d been racing up to this point.  Thirty minutes, I told myself.  You can run hard for thirty minutes, I thought.  That’s one episode of House Hunters.

And at some point, it dawned on me that I was actually going to do this.  I was going to finish under 1:40.  I was not going to f*ck up.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever felt that way during a half before.  Whoa.

Halfway through mile 10, I felt a little surge of energy and started to work my way forward in the pack.  I pulled up alongside woman in a pink shirt.  We chatted for a bit and she started snarking on a woman who was running in front of us in a wool hat, who I’d been watching for the last several miles.  I immediately decided that I liked Pink Shirt.

“Let’s go get her,” I said.  Pink Shirt agreed.

I totally owe Pink Shirt and her sass for what would be my fastest mile of the race, that mile 10.

Unfortunately, I lost my nerve somewhere in the early part of mile 11.

We were averaging sub-7 pace.  I got…scared?  I don’t know.  I let Pink Shirt pull away and settled back in to my more-comfortable low-mid-7 pace.  This, I count as my only mistake of the race.  Because she was fun and distracting and really…why couldn’t I have tried to go with her?  Sigh.

And so I plodded along.  I focused on just staying sharp on my feet and avoiding the temptation to shuffle.  Pink Shirt and Wool Hat were still well within sight.

Mile 13 – 7:19
0.1 + change – 1:01

So this last mile was hard.  But I’m not sure the last mile of a long race is ever easy?  I tried to talk myself in to picking up the pace.  Myself snapped back that it was actually rather weary of this whole running thing.  We compromised and I focused on just maintaining.

With half a mile to go, we turned on to the boardwalk.  Finally, the ocean!  Yay! But…oh damn, is that the finish line?  Why does it look so small?  Ugh.

I wish I could say I had an awesome sprint finish for this one, but no.  I gave it my all, but I just didn’t have much of a kick left in me.  Still, coming down that last stretch of boardwalk, I managed to pass a bunch of people who were in worse shape than me.  Little victories.

Finish time: 1:38:01.  7:28 pace.

I found Pink Shirt in the baggage claim area.  She beat the annoying hat chick.  And finished about 30 seconds ahead of me.  Why didn’t I go with her again?

Oh well.  Next time.

Am I happy with my finish time?  Yes, absolutely.  Do I think I can run better?  Yes, definitely.  But the thing I’m most happy about, reflecting on this race, isn’t my time.  It’s that I finally (finally!) seem to be learning how to race a little smarter.  I went out conservatively (maybe even too conservatively) and finished strong.  I didn’t f*ck up.  Yay me.

And a beer for you if you made it though this entire post.

Well, I’m off to eat cheese straight off the block for dinner.  I really need to get my act together when it comes to preparing decently healthy food for myself.  (And maybe get my blogging act together, too.  Are y’all sick of cartoons about peeing and long-winded race reports yet?)

‘Til manana….

[*Side note: did you know there is actually something called Mt. Trashmore in Virginia Beach?  I can’t decide whether this is awesome or disgusting.]